If you haven't seen it yet click here, but be warned: yikes.. ...And be sure to watch the parody that goes along with it. I haven't decided if it's worse that they haven't yet been embarrassed enough to take it down, or if the train-wreckage is just impossible to stop watching.
We’re constantly reminded not to let other people’s misguided understandings get in the way of our own pursuits, especially in dance. Naysayers, though, come in many shapes and sizes. They aren’t always as obvious as the ridiculous advertising that made a mockery out of a beautiful discipline. They are often close to home, disguised as positive influences and supporters, and they are often completely unaware of their own negative impact.
Free People’s complete disregard of professionalism and disrespect for classical ballet doesn’t bother me as a dancer nearly as much as it bothers me as a teacher.
Kids realize when their hard work and efforts are being degraded but they don’t necessarily know what to do or say when it’s happening. It’s much easier for an adult to brush off comments and ideas that degrade the art of dance for what they usually are: ignorance, gap fillers, absent-minded jabber. But to kids, they believe what the world is telling them about their art. So I guess I should thank Free People for giving me an opportunity to give my students a few insights on how to internalize garbage such as their ad campaign and address a few other scenarios that will undoubtedly arise maybe 50 times a month in the life of young dancer:
Statement 1: The obviously misguided: ‘Ballet is Easy’
Yeah, ballet is pretty easy when you don’t know what you’re doing.
Ok, I borrowed that from Degas: ‘Painting is easy when you don’t know how’. True, I suppose, of most things in life. It’s important to know what you don’t know. If you think ballet is easy, you’re doing it wrong. The work is what makes it ballet.
Ballet students learn quickly that their teachers are not impressed when they tell them something is ‘easy.’ That just means that they’re not working hard enough.
Statement 2: The sweetly intended: ‘Oh, isn’t that Cute’
Um, no… no, it’s not. There is nothing cute about it after the age of 7. You ever smell someone’s dance bag? It’s worse than my husband’s hockey equipment. Those mashed up toes? Yeah, that’s real blood, sweat and tears staining those paper-thin toe pads they wear under their pointe shoes. You accidentally step behind a pointe dancer before a well-executed grande battement en erriere and you realize quickly – that ain’t cute. Don’t let the pretty tutu fool you. A ballet dancer’s leg muscles are lethal.
Statement 3: The ever-popular: ‘Ballet is Boring’.
Firstly, there is no such thing as ‘boring’. If you feel bored it’s because YOU are boring. Open your eyes – there is so much going on, how can anyone ever be bored? Disengaged, unfocused, undisciplined, uninspired – perhaps. But bored? No way.
And definitely not in ballet class. If ballet bores you, you’re a boring dancer. If life bores you, you’re a boring person. If you ever feel bored… it’s you that is boring.
When you’re striving for the perfection that you’ll never reach, you don’t get bored. And if you’re not a dancer… well you have no place making such a statement.
Bored is not something that happens to you. It’s a state of mind you create. Ballet is not boring just because it bores you. And while you might think that your remark appears to come from a place of refined taste in all-things-interesting, to me and every other ballet dancer out there, you’re basically boasting that you have no capacity for depth, no perception of beauty, and no cultural appreciation (or you have burnt out your brain wiring on twitter and smart phone apps).
Statement 4: The Conversation Gap Filler (I hope that’s all it is): “Do you watch (fill in the dance related reality TV show)?
Do you ask your doctor if they watched ER? No.
Statement 5: The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Heard. Ever: “Why Don’t You Play a Real Sport?”
Oh, a real sport? I’ve considered it but I’ve been so busy focusing on building my endurance, stamina and longevity; increasing my ability to memorize, repeat and reverse complex, syncopated combinations of movements; molding my body into unnatural flexibility and alignment through daily repetition of strenuous movements; learning to articulate each and every part of my body from my toes, to my torso, to my eye lashes; developing my mental clarity and focus; strengthening and lengthening my muscles without appearing bulky; and developing my expressiveness through musicality and artistry and simultaneously making people think that ballet is easy, cute and pretty. I just kind of ran out of time.